PHILADELPHIA - In classic Philadelphia Big 5 style, the game came down to the final seconds between the Saint Joseph's women's basketball team and La Salle on Wednesday evening at Tom Gola Arena. Sparked by a career-high matching 18 points by junior Ashley Prim, the Hawks got a couple key stops late and knocked down a pair of free throws in the final moments to hold on for the 57-53 win to improve to 15-8 overall, 5-4 in the Atlantic 10 and 2-1 in the Big 5.
With the score tied at 49-49 and under five minutes to go, Saint Joseph's ran off five straight points, as an uncontested layup by redshirt sophomore forward Ashley Robinson put her team ahead 54-49 with 3:21 to go in the game.
La Salle, which shot just 27.3 percent for the game (18-of-66), would cut the game to 54-51, but a block by senior forward Kelly Cavallo thwarted the ensuing Explorers chance, and Prim added to the SJU lead at the other end with a free throw to make it 55-51 at 1:03.
Both teams failed to score in their next possessions, but because La Salle didn't foul, allowing SJU to run key seconds off the clock.
It didn't hurt the Explorers on the scoreboard though as the Hawks failed to convert and a layup by Nadia Duncan at the other end made it a 55-53 game with 10.7 seconds to go.
Saint Joseph's was able to run some time off the clock before sophomore guard Erin Shields was fouled. One of the top free throw shooters on the squad, Shields nailed both free throws to ice the game and hand SJU the win.
In the first half, the Hawks jumped out to a 7-2 edge as senior guard Michelle Baker's layup gave her team the early five-point edge.
Saint Joseph's, which opened its lead to seven on a jumper by sophomore forward Ilze Gotfrida at 14:24, could not shake the Explorers though. Despite holding La Salle to just 24.2 percent from the floor (8-of-33) in the opening half, the Hawks needed a buzzer-beater jumper by Gotfrida to make it a two-possession game at the half, 26-21.
Saint Joseph's started the second half strong, opening an eight-point lead, 30-22, on a pair of free throws by senior guard Michelle Baker at 18:40.
The Explorers (11-13, 5-4 A-10) wouldn't be denied though, using a 12-1 run to take their first lead since the opening minutes, 34-31, on a on three pointer by Alexis Scott at 12:49.
Neither team could pull away though, as the score would be tied four times from there, leading to a 49-49 and a frantic final minutes.
For the game, the Hawks shot 36.4 percent from the field (20-of-55), hit 4-of-12 from three-point range and knocked down 13-of-17 from the foul line (76.5 percent). At the other end, La Salle hit just 1-of-16 from behind the arc (6.3 percent) and 16-of-22 from the foul line (72.7 percent).
Individually, 12 of Prim's 18 points came on a career-best four three-point field goals, while the starting point guard added three assists and two steals. Senior center Samira van Grinsven was the only other Hawk in double figures, adding 15 points to go with a team-high seven rebounds.
La Salle's Scott led all scorers with 20 points.
The Hawks return to action this Sunday when they host Saint Louis. Game time is set for 2 p.m. at Hagan Arena.